Press conference demands: Free the Cuban Five

Cuban Five 2008

National Committee To Free The Cuban Five

Press conference highlights the

injustice against the Cuban Five;

calls for their immediate freedom

Today, with the 12th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban Five approaching, a press conference featured a range of speakers who called on U.S. President Barack Obama to remedy the injustice done to the Five and set them free.

Speakers included Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wayne Smith, the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana under President Carter, Andrés Gómez, director of the Antonio Maceo Brigade and representing the Alianza Martiana, Brian Becker, the national director of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice (PCJ), and Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

Col. Wilkerson shared a story which indicates the extent to which the U.S. government wants to squelch the growing support for the Five. In 2007, after hearing a talk at Howard University Law School by Attorney Leonard Weinglass, Wilkerson published an article expressing his feelings about the mistreatment of the Five by the U.S. justice system. Shortly thereafter, he was visited by the FBI, who gave him documents designed, in their words, to give him a "balanced view" of the case. "I read it," Wilkerson said, "along with some other information I was provided, and I still think it was an injustice. This did not change my mind at all with regard to the change of venue issue, and it certainly didn't change my mind at all regarding the draconian sentences that these men got."

Smith reviewed the history of the case of the Five. He noted that "it had been hoped that once Bush was out of office and Obama was in, that the Obama Administration would allow, in fact would encourage the Supreme Court to hear the case, and I think with that the whole thing would have been thrown out. But to our great disappointment, Elena Kagan, who was then Solicitor-General for President Obama, insisted that the Supreme Court not hear the case, and so it stands as it is, with the Five still in prison, unjustly imprisoned."

Speaking on behalf of the progressive Cuban-American community in Miami, Gómez remarked that Miami-based terrorism has exacted a terrible price in Cuba and in the United States as well. He called on the U.S. government to renounce the use of terrorism against Cuba. "We have been victims of terrorism throughout all these years. Thousands of Cubans are dead as a result of this policy. Billions of dollars have been lost in Cuba. Miami as a political community has been handicapped tremendously because of the potential use of terrorism against those who oppose the right-wing."

Verheyden-Hilliard announced that today the PCJ filed another FOIA demand on behalf of the National Committee against the U.S. State Department, as part of the National Committee's continuing efforts to expose secret payments to Miami journalists before and during the trial of the Five. She said government agencies are still stonewalling the National Committee by refusing to hand over documents revealing the extent of government payments. "This goes to the heart of the issue. It is bad enough that the trial was held in Miami, but the U.S. government, the State department, is barred by law from propagandizing to influence U.s. public opinion. There needs to be exposure and accountability for what happened."

Becker spoke of the mobilizations that the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and many other organizations will hold in support of the Five in the next few days. "Whenever there is a decision to commute a sentence or grant clemency, as happened when Eric Holder was deputy attorney general during the Clinton years, with the Puerto Rican nationalists who were incarcerated in U.S. federal prisons, those changes came about as a consequence of multiple factors: prominent people speaking out; people of conscious around the world coming together in a way that makes it possible, feasible, realizable, for the government to change its course. We know this can happen, and we look forward to the upcoming demonstrations, as one of many steps, to tell the truth and ultimately win the release of these five men."

La Riva announced that the National Committee will soon begin a campaign to raise funds for a full-page ad in the Washington Post, calling on the Obama administration to free the Cuban Five immediately. "A tortuous court process has denied them justice. Three presidents have not only aggressively prosecuted their imprisonment, they have also ignored the appeals of two of the wives to even be able to enter the United States to visit their husbands."

The complete press conference is online in both video and audio formats, which you can access through the links below. Also online are a series of "recommended reading" related to the press conference, including articles by Wilkerson, Smith, and Gómez, as well as the material that has been revealed thus far by our FOIA efforts.
Contact us: [email protected]
Or call: 415-312-6042
Free the Cuban Five Now!
Allow the families' visits!
Grant entry visas to
Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva!

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